Imagine starting a business with no other resource than the sound of your voice. The voice artist industry is gaining more attention lately with the sudden fame of Susan C. Bennett (@SiriiousSusan). Bennett is the woman behind the voice of Siri, the virtual assistant built into the mobile operating system for the Apple iPhone and now the iPad.
Bennett’s work on Siri began in 2005, thanks to a connection with GM voice, an Atlanta-based company. The company provides voices for automated technology services. According to Bennett, in a post about her official site, being a small company that played a part in such a huge technological innovation was surreal.
“To be honest, I had no idea what impact Siri has had on people, and as the voice behind the app, I want to extend my thanks to everyone involved.”
Of course, Bennett isn’t the only one offering her voice-as-a-service talents.
San Antonio-based vocal artist Morgan Barnhart has been providing voiceovers for radio, television and internet projects since the early 2000s. She operates a business called “Voice Overs by Morgan Barnhart” and has performed various field jobs for brands like Best Buy, FOX, Monster Free Apps and more.
What can aspiring freelancers interested in entering the voice artist industry learn from these two small business owners?
Get a lot of experience
Bennett lives in suburban Atlanta and started working as a vocal artist over 20 years ago. In addition to her work with Apple, she has also done voiceover and radio for companies like Ford, AT&T, Macy’s, Coca-Cola and more. She has also worked on TV promotions, storytelling, jingles, camera work, and live performances.
Morgan Barnhart also gained experience in voiceover and business announcements early on. His website talks about his early interest in recording, stating: “At the age of 11, Morgan picked up his shiny teal boombox and started doing his own radio shows at home, which quickly grew. sparked his interest in using his voice. ” In an email interview with Small Business Trends, she adds:
“I started in high school as a radio DJ and interned at a local radio station for a while, then in 2002 I trained more in the field and got involved in a ton online communities. Then it kind of went from there.
Learn how to market your unique service
Bennett has her own website, which showcases her work experience and provides demos and contact information so that interested parties can contact her for work or collaboration opportunities. It also has Audiocam Music, a full-service recording studio, with husband, guitarist and songwriter Rick Hinkle. The studio focuses on original music for commercials and videos, voiceovers, messages and music on hold, live rhythm sessions and more.
Barnhart also does a lot of marketing, mostly online. She stresses the importance of having a strong web presence:
“I have a website and am on a plethora of third-party websites, but the majority of my work is from my website. “
Barnhart’s website has sound file samples of her vocal talents as well as testimonials and a list of brands she’s worked with. But she says networking and word-of-mouth also play a big role in getting the jobs needed to be successful as a vocal artist:
“I also get referrals from old studios I worked with, other voice actors and even friends.”
Know how your voice will be used
For Bennett, becoming Siri’s voice was actually a surprise. His job for the project consisted of reading a series of absurd words and phrases for hours a day in his home recording studio. Siri’s answers to all your questions could then be formed once the scientists were able to take each different sound from Bennett’s recordings and put them together into endless combinations of sentences.
At the time, Bennett wasn’t sure exactly what his voice would be used for. It wasn’t until the iPhone 4S came out that she learned that her voice was part of a device that would be used by so many people. If she had realized that her voice would become such an institution, maybe she could have negotiated for more money.
In contrast, Morgan Barnhart says she makes a point of always knowing how her voice will be used. She explains:
“I need it to base my prices. I need to know if this is going to be used locally, nationally, on radio, on the internet, on TV, etc. in order to be paid appropriately.
Make sure you select the right market
While Bennett may not have been aware of how her voice would ultimately be used, she had amassed a national and international working resume. So when the creators of Siri were looking for a voice for their virtual assistant, Bennett was one of those who stood out.
But then again, there may be personal reasons why you prefer not to work for big national and international brands. Barnhart explains that she structured her own business with other goals in mind:
“I would say a good 80% is local, because I marketed it that way. I wanted to stay local. But I also do a lot of national and international work.
When starting a vocal artist business, you need to focus on the market you hope to serve. This resumption of work will tend to attract other similar projects. So know that your list of accomplishments is also part of your marketing. It tells potential clients the types of jobs you have the most expertise in.
Make sure you have the right tools
As a working vocal artist, it stands to reason that you need a good voice to be successful. But there are other tools that can definitely help you refine this product and make it more appealing to potential customers.
For example, Bennett has her own home recording studio where she creates her vocal parts for her clients. Barnhart also lists a home recording studio equipped with a Shure Super 55 microphone and ProTools Suite editing software among its assets on its website.
Research the types of equipment you might need to make professional-quality voice recordings. So consider making that investment as soon as possible so that you can create the kind of professional-looking voice recordings that you’ll be proud to include on your resume.
Microphone Photo via Shutterstock
Image Siri: Apple